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ment, which, if encouraged, could be relied upon to cause the seceding states to reverse their action. Conciliation which should deny to disunionists any new provocation was the true policy, and a perseverance in that policy was the only peaceful means of assuring the continuance of the remaining slave states, or most of them, in the Union. He denied the usefulness of holding Sumter, even if it could be done: "I would not provoke war in any way now." 1
Cameron's reply, quoting that of Scott on the 9th, approved the latter's conclusions, saying, "As the abandonment of the fort in a few weeks, sooner or later, appears to be an inevitable necessity, it seems to me that the sooner it is done the better.” 2 The reply of the secretary of war included several memoranda and communications rehearsing the various plans submitted and the opinions; these were read by General Totten, chief of engineers, the author of one of very pessimistic character, before the president and cabinet, General Scott, Commodore Stringham, and Mr. Fox.3
Only two members of the cabinet, Chase and Blair, answered the president's inquiry affirmatively, and even the former hesitatingly on account of the financial difficulties in case of war. There was no doubt, however, in the opinion of Blair, who was supported in his views by his father, Francis P.
1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, III., chap. xxiii.; Bancroft, Seward, II., 99-101; Crawford, Fort Sumter, 348-353.
2 War Records, Serial No. 1, pp. 196-198. 3 3 Ibid., 198–205.
Blair, an intimate friend and counsellor of Jackson's.1 The powerful opposition of three-fourths of the cabinet, of the general-in-chief, and of the whole of the war department could not but give Lincoln reason to ponder.
Seward's extreme optimism, his belief that his own views would be those which must necessarily be adopted by Lincoln, his confidence that he was to be the leading spirit of the government, now led to the first of three extraordinary endeavors to usurp the direction of affairs, and caused him to place the administration in a false light. He even went so far when Senator Gwin showed him a telegram which he was about to send to Montgomery, mentioning Chase's appointment to the cabinet, declaring that the war policy was in the ascendant, and advising the South to look out for itself, that he substituted over Gwin's signature the statement that the outlook was peaceable and that matters had never looked so encouraging." He went still further by giving out to the press the information that Fort Sumter would shortly be evacuated, and requesting the editor of the National Intelligencer to communicate the fact to George W. Summers, "the recognized leader of the Union majority in the Virginia Convention."3
All this was, of course, known to the Confeder
• Crawford, Fort Sumter, 358-361.
2 Gwin to Crawford, in ibid., 320.
• Welling, in Nation, XXIX., 383 (December 4, 1879).
ate commissioners, of whom, through the arrival of Forsyth, there were now two two in Washington. Hunter, of Virginia, agreed to be their instrument in establishing an understanding with the secretary of state, whom Hunter found urgent for delay. While this was wholly in accord with the views of the Confederate authorities so long as the "military status should be maintained and no advantage taken of the delay," they were desirous that their willingness should not appear. A memorandum was prepared by the commissioners defining the terms upon which they "would consent to and stipulate for a brief respite." They agreed to postpone the consideration of the subject of their mission for twenty days on a positive pledge that the military status should be preserved in every respect.1
It is not at all surprising, as reported by the commissioners, that Seward " was perceptibly embarrassed and uneasy" on Hunter's presenting the paper, March 11, and asking if he would consent to an informal interview, when it is understood that Scott received the same day instructions, of which Seward must have been aware, to issue orders to Vogdes to land his company of artillery at Fort Pickens. Seward informed Hunter that he must consult the president, and the next day, March 12, informed him by note that it was not in his power
1 Confederate Correspondence, in U. S. Treasury Department, cited by Crawford, Fort Sumter, 322, 323.
"to receive the gentlemen of whom we conversed yesterday." The commissioners thereupon, March 13, formally requested an official interview at an early day. No formal reply was made to this, but a memorandum, with instructions to furnish the commissioners a copy if called for, was placed in the files of the department, defining the position of the government and showing that the interview was declined.1
Justice Nelson, of New York, and Justice Campbell, of Alabama, who had convinced themselves "that an inflexible adherence to a policy of moderation and of peace would inevitably lead to the restoration of the Union," and were equally convinced of the unconstitutionality of any coercion, now appeared on the scene in an endeavor to urge their views. They finally recommended to the secretary of state to reply to the letter of the commissioners and announce the earnest desire of the government for conciliation and peace. Seward rose with a forcible gesture. "I wish I could do it. See Montgomery Blair, see Mr. Bates, see Mr. Lincoln himself; ... convince them-no, there is not a member of the cabinet who would consent to it. If Jefferson Davis had known the state of things here, he would not have sent those commissioners; the evacuation of Sumter is as much as the administration can bear." Seward authorized Campbell, on the latter's request to know what he should say 1 In full in Moore, Rebellion Record, I., Doc. 47, PP. 42-44.
to Davis, "to say that before that letter could reach him, he would learn by telegraph that the order for the evacuation of Sumter had been made." Campbell now, March 15, had an interview for the first time with Commissioner Crawford, and urged upon him a delay of five days in demanding a response to the commissioners' note, as in that time he was confident Sumter would be evacuated. Crawford at once said: "You come from Seward; those are his views?" Campbell declined giving his authority, but said that "Justice Nelson was aware of all that I was, and would agree that I was justified in saying to him what I did." 2
On Crawford's demand that the information should be in writing, Campbell drew up a note, which received the approval of Justice Nelson, who had also been in communication with the secretary of state, and, its contents having been communicated to the latter, it was given the commissioner, who at once advised the Confederate government. This note expressed perfect confidence that Sumter would be evacuated in the next five days, that no measure changing the status prejudicially to the Confederacy was at present contemplated, and that an immediate demand for an answer to the commissioners would do evil. A delay "until the effect of the evacuation of Sumter could be ascertained
1 Davis, Confederate Government, I., 268; Campbell's account, in Crawford, Fort Sumter, 328.
2 Campbell's account, in Crawford, Fort Sumter, 329.